Jeff Berner: Out There
Whether as touring guitarist for the avant garde rockers, Psychic TV, or producer for artists like Boy George, Lenny Kaye, Pharoahe Monch, Jeff Berner makes a safe, creative space for those around him to make great art.
“Unless you’re the most self-assured, confident person in your own artistic capability, at some point, you’re going to be vulnerable, you’re gonna be doing something that is emotionally intimate,” he says. “So it’s good to have someone helping you along.”
He’s helped me along for over nearly two decades.
I first met Jeff in a cavernous, hand-built studio on the edge of Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood. The occasion was the recording of what would be our first Holiday Benefit album – a series of local, all-star recordings I founded and led for years.
I tapped Jeff to track vocals on my 2016 album, Great Lakes, then guitar and vocals on 2019’s What’s Left Behind. Jeff recorded sessions with Downstate Darlings and me, then produced vocals, played lead guitar and mixed my new record, Constellations, from his new home base, Studio G, in Williamsburg.
Between recording hundreds of independent artists and bands, getting married and becoming a father, Jeff toured the world with Psychic TV.
“Getting the opportunity to go all around the world on the merit of being able to play music with people is something I never took for granted,” he said. “It was luck. And I was prepared.”
Looking back to those early years practicing riffs in his sweltering, air condition-free Hopewell Junction, New York, childhood home, Jeff says he realizes there’s more than what he initially imagined.
“I thought for a very long time as a young kid that I was gonna be a rock star,” he says, echoing my own expectations. “But I didn’t know that there was a whole other world out there and a way to really connect and help other people.”
“It’s so fulfilling for me, on so many different levels, being able to listen to the thing that you just made.”